APM & DevOps: How To Collaborate Effectively with the Virtual War Room

December 04 2014

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the War Room!" AppDynamics' Virtual War Room will allow DevOps to effectively collaborate. Read More

We’ve all been there: the dreaded War Room.


When a critical application starts behaving badly, everyone and their uncle is on high alert, on conference bridges, chat sessions, and often physically in the same room trying to get to the bottom of the problem. And here’s how the conversation usually goes:

    Non-Technical Lead: “Okay, what do we know?”
    IT Ops Lead: “The system is slow and crashing intermittently.”
    Non-Technical Lead: “And?”
    IT Ops Lead: “And we don’t know why. Server team, what can you tell us?”
    Server Lead: “Servers are fine. Maybe there’s a problem with the network?”
    Network Lead: “Network looks fine. Maybe it’s the database?”
    Database Lead: “Databases look fine. The application might be doing something it shouldn’t though.”
    Non-Technical Lead: “$#?@! Customers can’t check out and we’re losing revenue by the minute — how can you say each of your systems is fine?!?!”

At this point, everyone looks to their individual tools with their system-specific metrics. Server team talks CPU, memory, and disk I/O; network team talks throughput, packet loss, and latency; database team talk top queries, cache-hit ratios, and connection counts.

And round-and-round they go. Eventually, the dev team is called in. Then it just gets worse.

But there’s a better way.

Over the past 10 years, performance monitoring has revolutionized IT, specifically because measuring application behavior in terms of Business Transactions is something *everyone* can agree on, because everyone understands what it means when “Checkout” is slow, stalled, or errored, even the Non-Technical Lead.

And the best part is, Dev and Ops can agree on it too.

That said, until now there’s still been a significant limitation when it comes to accessing this data, as there hasn’t been a simple way for everyone to get on the same page, looking at the same data, on the same screen, in a purpose-built collaboration solution designed around application performance monitoring.

Which is why AppDynamics new Virtual War Room is so groundbreaking.

Starting a session is easy as can be — one click and you’re up and running. From there, invitations can be sent to anyone to join.

Once in the Virtual War Room, everyone’s immediately on the same page, with dashboards and widgets providing business context with application transaction data. For instance, the example below depicts an e-commerce scenario in which an order processing issue is preventing orders from being fulfilled. The Business Transaction view of Orders Processed is something everyone can understand, and therefore everyone can see there’s an issue:

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 11.16.03 AM

As demonstrated in this example, chat functionality allows team members to collaborate in real-time, with annotations added to the graphs when War Room Notes are entered. The conversation begins with a team member inquiring if any diagnostics have been performed (looking at Snapshots), and when it’s discovered there have been timeout exceptions, a second graph is added displaying blocked threads. Seeing the inverse relationship between Blocked Threads and Orders Processed, thread capacity is increased to resolve the issue.

It might seem simple – and for demonstration purposes the scenario definitely is – but the reality of coming to these conclusions in today’s enterprises is far from straight forward. In day-to-day practice, it’s just too easy to be consumed by a tunnel-vision worldview based on silos of responsibility. Without unbiased data, presented in clear business context, the blame game is the outcome to be expected. Thankfully, with AppDynamics Virtual War Room that doesn’t have to be the case.

In a nutshell, this is how AppDynamics enables true DevOps collaboration with our new Virtual War Room:

  1. Get everyone on the same page by looking at the same Business Transaction data
  2. Keep the focus on metrics that translate to the business value the application delivers; dive in deeper when appropriate
  3. Include as broad an audience as possible and foster communication, with chat and annotation capability
  4. Identify resolution criteria, assign ownership
  5. Take lessons learned to improve development, test, deployment, and production processes.

Now imagine doing this not just during a hair-on-fire production issue, but during a load test, deployment or pilot scenario. Powerful stuff. Only from AppDynamics.

Michael Butt
Michael is a Product Marketer at AppDynamics. He’s worked in the IT industry for over 10 years, first as a network and systems engineer in the aerospace industry and then at OPNET before its acquisition by Riverbed Technology. While at OPNET, he established one of the industry’s first Network and Application Performance Management consulting practices which grew globally to over 30 employees.

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